Your average college football fan can rattle off 10 to 20 of the top players going into almost any season.
As you hear them call off this who’s who of football what you get is mostly offensive players like Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller and Marqise Lee. Maybe you’ll get Jadeveon Clowney, but don’t expect too many more defensive players.
So let’s educate these fans on the 13 defensive players you should know going into 2013.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney’s name is being tossed around as a Heisman candidate, and if you saw his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith during the Outback Bowl you know why he holds down the top spot.
Clowney has topped many lists since he was the No. 1 recruit coming out of South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, S.C.
The 6-foot-6, 274-pound freak is the most dominating defensive player in the college game today (and maybe ever).
That’s right, he ranks right up there with the Hugh Green, Bubba Smith and Charles Woodson as dominant defensive players.
2. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
In 2012, Sutton had 13 sacks and a conference-leading 23.5 tackles for loss while earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
He’s easily one of the best interior pass rushers and can disrupt an offense with his constant pursuit.
He’s reminiscence of Nick Fairley, when he dominated the line of scrimmage at Auburn. He will be a first-round pick like Fairley as well.
3. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr was a second-team All-American in 2012 and enters this season near the top of the NFL draft board.
He recorded 60 tackles and 13 sacks, while also forcing four fumbles last year for the Bruins, who now claim to be Linebacker U.
His best attribute is probably his speed, which allows him drop back in coverage and also get pressure on the quarterback.
4. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Van Noy did enough last year as a junior to get an early call in this past year’s NFL draft. But the second-team All-American chose to come back to Provo, Utah, and play out his career for BYU.
He’s actually the active leader in sacks, ahead of Clowney.
Van Noy is an imposing 6-3, 245 pounds, who can beat opponents with his strength and speed.
If you’ve never seen this guy play, check him out this fall as BYU plays a solid schedule against Virginia, Texas, Utah, Georgia Tech, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
5. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
With higher-profile names on the Irish defense last year, Tuitt was overlooked by many. But the Irish coaches and others around the nation realized Tuitt was an impact player on the defensive side.
He finished 2012 with 45 tackles, 11 sacks and a fumble recovery, but his constant pressure on offenses really opened things up for other players.
At 6-6, 303 pounds, Tuitt is a legitimate NFL prospect and a freak of nature.
6. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Purifoy has earned a reputation of being one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, but now he wants you to know he’s more than that.
There’s a chance the extremely athletic Purifoy could see some time at receiver this fall for the Gators.
If the experiment doesn’t work out, then Florida will still have a shutdown corner who will likely force opponents to throw away from him.
7. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley continues the tradition of Alabama trotting out a stud linebacker who can run, hit and cover backs.
The 6-2, 232-pound Mosley finished 2012 with 66 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions.
Other linebackers garnered more headlines than Mosley last season, but he may have been the best in the nation. When you play at Alabama you get a lot of attention, but with the cupboard full of talent it’s also easy to get overlooked.
Mosley won’t be overlooked this fall.
8. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
The 6-5, 245-pounder has the physical gifts to be a fearsome pass rusher, and become a first-round draft pick in 2014.
But his performance hasn’t always lived up to the skills. His biggest strength may be his ability to stop the run.
Expect that to change this season as he becomes the best defensive player in the Big 12.
9. Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Fields has made more headlines for his rocky offseason, but when he’s on the field he is a force.
ESPN’s Tom Luginbill has tabbed Fields to be one of the most feared pass-rushers in the game over the next two seasons.
He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman. Being suspended for the opener against LSU definitely takes away a spotlight game for him to show off his talent.
10. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby may be the most athletic player to make this list.
He runs a blazing 4.3 in the 40 and he scored last year on an interception, fumbled punt and a blocked punt.
Under Urban Meyer’s watch, Roby has developed into a solid cover guy instead of a freak athlete getting by on skills alone.
11. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Crichton excels at bull rushing linemen and getting into the backfield, and has also shown a knack for running down plays that go away from his side.
He earned All-Pac 12 honors in 2012 with nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss.
Crichton missed the spring after shoulder surgery, but he is expected to be back at full speed when the season begins.
12. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Despite his huge season, it was a shock that Nix decided to return for another season at Notre Dame.
Nix is one of the best run stoppers in the nation and he takes up a ton of space at 6-3, 340.
He led the defensive line with 50 tackles, while also recording 7.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.
13. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
After starting the past two seasons at free safety, Joyner is making the move back to cornerback in his final campaign in Tallahassee.
The move is interesting considering how well Joyner has played at safety, and it could create some issues in a strong defense.
Joyner tallied 51 tackles and one interception in 2012, while also playing a role in the return game.